A thirty-something year old man who looks younger than his years awaits a woman four years

his junior in the least romantic place he can imagine. He waits by a mahogany counter half-listening to the assistant serving him as he stays alert for any sign of her too familiar face.

He saw her enter from out the corner of his eye, her pale blonde curls flashing in the midday sun. He ignored her presence entirely, she would find him, there was never any question about that. Instead he continued to talk to the pretty assistant in front of him who was amiably recommending her favorite acts for this handsome patron. She walked in after a quick glance at her reflection in the window. She wanted to cause a painful impact on him, jarringly beautiful if at all possible. As ever she succeeded. He looked back up at the assistant and smiled, nodding in agreement to whatever she had said. "You would like a meal during the performance then?" "That would be wonderful." "Great! Hope you enjoy the show! " The assistant smiled at him flirtatiously, a smile he returned but only because she was watching. Anything to piss her off. "Cheating on your wife already?" She asked, coming to stand beside him in line. "Quick to change your mind are you not?" "Spare me, please. I don't need to hear this crap." He said, voice venomous, without looking up at her. "Scared of the truth?" She wanted to know as she glanced around the pleasant room, looking anywhere but him. "No - just scared of you." "Smart boy." She taunted with one of her wicked smiles. He inclined his head, regarding her through un-readable eyes.

"It's been said." "Not truthfully - until now." She answered allowing her gaze to flick upwards to him, as she had hoped his face was an expressionless mask. Which meant, to her delight, he was upset. "Always the little barbs with you is it not?" He asked sourly. "How well you know me." She replied with a sugary smile her tone soft as honey. "Too well for my tastes. I like my acquaintances more on the bearable side." "Oh so you find my presence unbearable do you? Then why hang about?" She asked, eyes narrowing, she knew she had hit a soft spot. After all why did either of them remain around the other? Why endure her constant veiled insults? Why put up with his casual dismissal of her? Why the choice to meet up again and again when there was nothing between them but loathing and contempt? "You know perfectly well why." He answered cuttingly, sneering at her in disgust. Why must she bring it up? "Lifebond." She answered, voice a hiss as she spat out the hated word. The word that made him violate the vows to his wife, if only in spirit, he had not allowed himself to stoop so low as to sleep with his lifebonded yet. However they both knew it was only a matter of time and she enjoyed that it caused him great guilt to think on the inevitable. For she blamed him for the destruction of her freedom and blamed him entirely. If he had never wedded Cherise…but he had, long before he had met the blonde woman beside him. She looked away from him seeing in his eyes that his thoughts had turned to Cherise. She could tell in the way his contemptuous sneer disappeared, the sneer he reserved just for her, and in the way his eyes filled with self-doubt and guilt. Cherise, it was always Cherise. But what about her? That was exactly it, what about her? She mentally shook herself and swallowed the fresh surge of bitterness, the metallic taste that was always at the back of her throat these days. "The line is moving." She said noticing that most people were moving through the gilded doubled doors in front of them. "Of course." He answered looking up at her, the sneer returning. "I do not understand why you understand bringing me to these, "dances", instead of just

meeting in a cafe' somewhere." She commented moving through the doors while staying as far away from him as she might. "It annoys you and besides which, no one I know is likely to see us here and I don't think I could bear people asking if we are friends or anything of the sort." He answered with superior smirk. "Oh of course not." She replied tone dangerous, he glanced at her, smirk gone, replaced by confusion. "Hi! Welcome to the statesman gentlemen's lounge. Names please?" A bright young woman asked with a smile. "Micheal." He muttered looking at the ceiling. "Elaine." "Super! It's nice to have you Micheal and Elaine - Jerry have we got a nice table for the lovely couple?" She asked of a creepy looking older man in a high-pitched and overly enthusiastic voice. "Jerry" nodded pointing and to a table on the far wall. "Table eight." He answered. Elaine graced Jerry and the other assistant with a false smile and tried to ignore Jerry's eyes lingering on her as yet another assistant guided them to a small round table set for two. As the two of them sat down Micheal's smirk was firmly back in place. "Well my dearest it looks like you have a suitor." He taunted, commenting on the Jerry's lingering gaze. "Wonderful. More unwanted attentions, life cannot get any worse." She answered tightly just as the lights dimmed. "What do you mean?" He demanded in a hiss. "Would you rather be starving, in the pouring rain, uneducated and uncared about but having never met me or would you rather be living your life as it is?" "The former." She answered cooly. "You would rather be starving then have met me?" He asked incredulously, rather too loudly so that he was given glares by various other men who were enjoying the scene unfolding on the stage. She remained silent a moment until the other patrons had returned to the performance and were not listening.

"You are the absolute bane of my life." She answered tonelessly. "I'm the bane of your life?" He demanded. "Quite. I used to be free before I met you. Now I have to remain here so that I can visit you every now and then without this - this curse going rogue on us." She answered watching the women dancing on stage, thoughts clearly absent. "I used to be honest before I met you." He shot back, that oh so familiar sneer back again. "I used to be happy. I don't even remember what happy feels like anymore." She returned and he fell silent. It was not too often that he was reminded of the adverse affect of the lifebond on her. Most of the time he only considered himself and his promises to Cherise. He never really thought of her as suffering at their binding, in fact she seemed to enjoy torturing him, enjoy watching him suffer with his guilt. So what sign did he ever see of suffering? "Then how do you know you aren't happy?" He asked trying to hold onto his sneer as he looked levelly at the woman across from him. For the first time that evening she looked back at him, meeting his brown eyes with her hazel. "If this is happy, it sucks." She replied rising from her seat. "Where are you going?" He asked in confusion. "The bathroom." She answered in a sarcastic tone. He watched her walk away until she passed through the double doors, feeling the usual pang at the absence of his lifebonded. Sighing he closed his eyes on the dimly lit room, sometimes he wondered whether it might not be easier not see Elaine anymore and rogue bond be damned. But at least she was gone for tonight and he was still faithful to Cherise, however little comfort that would be to his wife had she known of Elaine's existence. He knew Cherise would be worried about their marriage - and sos he should, because for the first time in countless months he found himself wanting to call out to the woman who had just left him, to call her back and make her happy again. Even just for a moment.

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